Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This romantic comedy written by Dan Fogelman (CARS) and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the writers responsible for the gleefully offensive BAD SANTA) lurches uneasily between bittersweet and quirky before settling, tragically, for emotional uplift.  Jacob (a charismatic Ryan Gosling) avoids commitment but knows how to seduce women.  Meanwhile Cal (Steve Carell) adjusts to single life after Emily (a wonderful Julianne Moore), his wife of 25 years, admits she’s been having an affair with co-worker David (Kevin Bacon).  After spotting the sad sack at his local pick up spot, Jacob tutors Cal in the fine art of fashion and facileness, which leads to improved confidence and a spirited one-night stand with Kate (Marisa Tomei).  However, Jacob meets his match when spunky law student Hannah (a charming Emma Stone) tells him no.  Amidst all these romantic machinations, Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) nurses a crush on his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who in turn pines for Cal.  Fogelman’s superficial, uneven screenplay meanders, introducing a promising storyline or engaging character only to abandon it.  The marvelous Tomei captivates every time she’s on screen, but the filmmakers hang her out to dry.  The scenes with Gosling and Stone crackle, thanks primarily to the performers’ chemistry.  But Fogelman’s script cheats the audience out of significant information to facilitate a surprise twist near the film’s end.  And, despite a fearless performance by Tipton, the babysitter story turns queasily unfunny, with characters responding to mortifying situations as if they were appearing on the Disney Channel.  Ficarra and Requa elicit strong performances from their cast but alternate between pedestrian camera shots and self-conscious visual flourishes that undermine coherent storytelling.  The filmmakers back away from any meaningful portrait of modern romance and settle, literally, for the insipid platitudes of an 8th grade graduation speech in which dishonesty masquerades as profundity.

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